Daily Factoid: Scion's demise, in a single statistic

In 2003, the average new-Toyota buyer was five years older than buyers of new Volkswagens. In response, Toyota introduced the Scion brand in the U.S. market.

Scion was positioned and marketed as a first-new-car, to attract Gen-Xers to the Toyota fold and keep them there. The new brand was initially successful with quirky models like the xB.

But Scion's been dealt a one-two knockout by the economy and demographics. Just before the '08 recession, the average age of a new car buyer was 43. Today, it's 52. (For reference, the average new car buyer is now about a decade and a half older than the average American, and has an income about one and half times as great.)

But wait, it gets worse; the '08 recession didn't just take Millennials out of the market for new Scions, it reprogrammed a lot of them to think about cars differently. Uber and car-sharing suddenly looks like a real alternative to life with a car. And among younger buyers who need or want a car of their own, new cars seem to have lost their shine. Part of the blame for that shift falls on Toyota, too. Manufacturers have spent the last 30 years improving quality and durability, to the point that used cars are more reliable and desirable than ever. 

Over the long haul, Toyota (like every other car maker) needs to find a way to ensure that when people finally buy new, they buy a Toyota. But between now and then, the reality is that if they want to be in the new car business at all, they've gotta' pay attention to mature consumers.

 

R8’d highly: VB&P’s Super Bowl spot for Audi works on dual demos

Adweek cited Venables Bell & Partners' ad for the Audi R8 as one of the best spots in last night’s big Advertising Championship Game. 

This spot has a 94% positive rating on iSpot.tv. It's not an accident that the soundtrack ― from David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust album ― was released in 1972. That was when the people right in the middle of the Baby Boom were coming of age. (Advertising Championship action was broken up by the National Football League, which bought a lot of time which it used to show off the sport of football, in between the ads. Unfortunately for the NFL, it wasn’t a particularly good game.)

Audi's commercial was not just a solid effort, it also worked effectively across the age range of R8 buyers. Here’s why...

First, let’s look at R8 demographics... 

According to a 2011 RL Polk survey, the average age of Audi owners was 49. In the intervening five years, the average age of new car buyers has, if anything, increased. (In 2015, according to a study conducted by NADA, the average new car buyer was 51.7.)

What about the age of buyers for the $115,000-plus R8 model? 

Audi isn’t sharing numbers with me, but I’d be surprised if the median age of R8 buyers is under the brand average. There is an R8talk.com forum ― which is almost certainly a selective filter for younger owners. I found a thread there, in which R8 owners listed their ages. In that small sample of 27 respondents, 8 were over 50; the oldest was 65.

Worth noting: I’ve also seen quite a bit of anecdotal and/or statistically incomplete evidence to suggest that Audi is one of the luxury brands that has done the best job of targeting Millennials.  That goes a long way towards justifying the premise of VB&P’s creative, which is that the Millennial R8-owning son comes to visit his ex-astronaut dad, and gives him a spin in a vehicle that makes dad feel young again.

Why it's good...

I bet it tested gangbusters with 30- and younger 40-something guys who still wrestle with parental expectations! (Note: the actor portraying the son is Gunner Wright, who is technically a young Gen-Xer, on the cusp of being a leading-edge Millennial.)

What about Baby Boomers? Does the ad also work for them? After all, from one perspective the dad's crap evening is only rescued by the arrival of his kid in a new sports car. The old guy literally seems to have lost his appetite for life. Hardly an uplifting image.

But as always, execution is everything. They cast an actor who’s height-weight proportional, and who doesn’t particularly walk like to the car like an old man. And, to be fair, he was an ex-astronaut. Retired life probably really is a bit boring, by comparison.

This is not a guy who other old guys are going to read as pathetic. It’s a guy who other old guys are going to read as an ex-hero, of a type that hardly exists any more. The Apollo program ― the heroic period of American space exploration ― ended in 1972. So the actual astronauts were not Baby Boomers, which also gives people like me just enough emotional distance from the father figure and his pathos... while still maintaining enough relate-ability to connect, at least, with the idea that we came of age in a different (and better) time.

When that old guy ― a guy I can relate to, but who is even older than me ― reconnects with those lost feelings in the R8, it makes millions of Baby Boomers think, at least for a moment, maybe I could do that too. And it was all done without ever suggesting anything about an embarrassing mid-life crisis.

For the Millennial Audi-driver, it’s a hard-won validation. Audis really are aspirational targets for a lot of Millennials, and this spot while nominally touting the R8 clearly has to carry an overarching brand message (Audi can’t sell enough R8 models to justify the cost.) But VB&P skillfully layered in a recapturing-lost-youth message that will not be lost on the 50% of Audi buyers who are closer in age to that ex-astronaut than they are to his son.

 

Gray is the new Blonde, Part II

 Of course, once  the Times picked this up , it was repackaged on dozens of web sites. Does that make it a bona fide trend? The mere fact it can be believably reported as one suggests that Millennials are beginning to see maturity as a positive trait.

Of course, once the Times picked this up, it was repackaged on dozens of web sites. Does that make it a bona fide trend? The mere fact it can be believably reported as one suggests that Millennials are beginning to see maturity as a positive trait.

We've been noticing about 50 shades of grey in the hair of young people lately. At first it was Millennial (and even younger) women embracing their inner grannies. But now it seems men are in on it.

As the Times reports...

Gray and silver hair has definitely been trending, said Aura Friedman, a senior hair colorist at Sally Hershberger Salon in New York. “The demographic of guys who come to me to go gray are doing it more as a fashion statement,” she said, as opposed to a more natural look. 

At re: we don't really care whether Millennials are making a fashion statement, as opposed to actually trying look naturally gray. We see this as further evidence that the widespread belief in the advertising world ― that associating a visibly older consumer with your product will drive away younger ones ― is probably false.

Daily Factoid: Bernie Sanders has pulled a Betty White

 It's not that Bernie, or Betty, are cool  in spite of being old.  Being old is actually a key aspect of why young people dig them. They see Betty as especially arch, and her sexual innuendo is especially funny because it's coming from her and not, say, Lena Dunham. And they love the fact that after all these years, Bernie still has the fire in his belly. Role models like these two make getting old seem a lot less threatening (or boring.)

It's not that Bernie, or Betty, are cool in spite of being old. Being old is actually a key aspect of why young people dig them. They see Betty as especially arch, and her sexual innuendo is especially funny because it's coming from her and not, say, Lena Dunham. And they love the fact that after all these years, Bernie still has the fire in his belly. Role models like these two make getting old seem a lot less threatening (or boring.)

One of the most striking facts that emerged from the Iowa caucuses yesterday was the age bias shown by Democratic voters, who were split almost equally by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. We expected that Sanders’ voters would skew younger, but the extent of that skew still bears examination ― and provides interesting food for thought, whether you’re marketing a politician or a more conventional brand.

There’s been a lot of attention paid to Sanders’ age ― if elected, he’d be the oldest President ever sworn in for a first term. To wit, my blog post on this topic is the most-read post on this site. But the reason Hillary Clinton’s campaign has laid off Sanders’ age is obvious: Hillary, at 68 would also be among the very oldest Presidents (and her health is, if anything, more of question than Sanders’.)

That noted, I think it’s pretty fair to say that although they’re only about five years apart in age, Bernie looks older than Hillary. Moreover, judging from Bernie’s consistently disheveled, charming-but-cantankerous-old-fart public persona, his campaign’s decided not to downplay his age.

That’s smart; by letting their candidate’s age show, the campaign’s making it harder for potential rivals to turn it into an issue. And, however improbably, Bernie’s pulled a ‘Betty White’. He’s become one of the rare people who are both unabashedly old and who are seen as cool by Millennials.

But ironically, the older Democratic contender in Iowa has by far the youngest supporters. Today, The Atlantic is reporting an exit poll that suggests Democratic voters under 30 voted 6:1 for Sanders. Even voters aged 30-44 were one and a half times more likely to say they’d voted for Sanders. 

Older voters skewed almost as heavily towards Clinton. Senior citizens preferred her by a margin of 3:1.

I’d love to do a deep dive into the ‘why’ of this age divide, but the primary season would be over before I posted it. So, I’ll limit myself to two key observations that should be relevant to any marketer, political or otherwise: Older consumers are not necessarily drawn to someone that seems to be ‘like them’. And younger consumers are not necessarily turned off by someone who is obviously not ‘like them’.

 51% of Millennials say they lean Democratic, compared to 35% who lean Republican.

51% of Millennials say they lean Democratic, compared to 35% who lean Republican.

 Among Gen Xers, the ratio drops to 49% Democratic, 38% Republican.

Among Gen Xers, the ratio drops to 49% Democratic, 38% Republican.

 Although the gap has closed to within 7%, even Boomers skew Democratic.

Although the gap has closed to within 7%, even Boomers skew Democratic.

 Only senior citizens view the two parties equally.

Only senior citizens view the two parties equally.

According to Pew Research, age is a powerful predictor of whether a voter identifies as Democratic or Republican. So, it’s ironic that the Democratic Party is fielding two older candidates, while the Republicans’ presumptive candidates are in their mid-40s. Basically, the Dems are going to field a candidate that looks like a typical GOP voter, while the GOP is going to field a candidatewho resembles a Democratic Party voter.

When it come to an actual campaign, will Cruz or Rubio try to make age an issue? (In the unlikely event of a Donald Trump candidacy, the point’s moot; he’d be sworn in at 70.) 

Here at re: we think that attacking a candidate’s age is dangerous. Sure the Clinton campaign could draw attention to Bernie’s age in the primaries; and the Republicans could portray either Democrat as over the hill in a general election.

But both Hillary (in the primaries) and the Republicans (in the general election) are obviously counting on older voters. So neither Hillary nor the Republicans can afford to make old people think, “Wait a minute, are you saying there’s something wrong with old people?”

Do you want to know why, in the nasty runup to the first Republican primaries, no rival has dared criticized Chris Christie’s physique? Because most Americans are overweight and about a third of the country’s obese. Mobilizing all those fat people to vote for Christie out of sympathy and shared sense of outrage would turn him from also-ran to contender overnight.

As I’ve noted in the past, the probability that an eligible voter will actually cast a ballot increases with age. The most committed voters are Boomers and senior citizens who are all old enough to view Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio as upstarts and punks. That’s especially true of voters who lean Republican.

Pew Research refers to those pre-Boomer senior citizens as ‘The Silent Generation’. As Bernie Sanders has so ably shown though... when you get those old people riled up they can make a lot of noise.

Calling anyone too old might piss 'em all off.

 

 

 

 

Daily Factoid: Play with the Administration for Community Living's interactive map

The Center for Community Living (an office of the Administration on Aging, which is itself a part of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services) recently posted an interactive online map which allows you to compare states, examining a number of age-related statistics. Click the map below to go straight to their site and try it for yourself.

This map makes it easy to get an overview of the numerical size of the older-consumer market, because you can compare states’ overall populations with the share of population that is 60+ and 65+. 

Not surprisingly, California is both the most populous state, and the state with the largest number of people over 60. But the size of the senior market really hits you when you realize that there are more people over 60 in California than there are people, period, in Arizona.

New York has more 60+ residents than the total population of either Oklahoma or Oregon. Illinois and Michigan have more 60+ residents than the combined populations of Utah and New Mexico.

Are you running a national marketing effort for a national brand? Because if you are, this is a question you should ask yourself: Which whole states are you willing to completely hand over to your competition? If your message doesn’t resonate with older consumers, you’re losing a big share of population and an even bigger share of wealth.

Sure Geico’s ‘Mom’ is a caricature. But all’s forgiven in this genuinely funny spot.

Geico’s latest commercials, created by The Martin Agency are diverse. They’re set in situations ranging from a medieval dungeon to a modern operating room. All they share besides the “It’s what you do” button is a tendency to open with a common movie or TV-show trope.

In the latest one, a James Bond-style chase scene is interrupted when the spy’s mom calls, at the worst possible moment. Cut to mom, a very comfortably retired suburbanite, played by actress Cindy Drummond.

This spot has a 97.5% positive rating on ispot.tv. Several comments on YouTube suggest copywriter Ken Marcus' observation about his own mom is consistent with moms everywhere. 

Cindy Drummond's deadpan 'mom' is a caricature of the 60-something parent who is utterly clueless when it comes to understanding what’s going on in her kids’ lives. 

I presume Geico’s brief targeted a broad demo ― and of course all TV ads tend to skew older these days, since the TV audience is, frankly, old. So consumers who are the same age as the mom character are amongst the ad’s target (or should be.)

With that in mind, you might think re: would slam The Martin Agency for the ageist stereotype. But, you’d be wrong, I’m actually more than cool with it. First of all, the son is a caricature too, and the opening sequence is a spy flick parody. So it’s all in good fun. And, all’s forgiven when spots are genuinely funny; I especially like the button when we come back to mom and she asks if her son’s at a Zumba class. At least she knows what Zumba is.

Adweek credits Sean Riley (CD) and Ken Marcus (copywriter) on the spot. That’s a pairing with a combined age of at least 90. While neither is anywhere close to the age of the mom character they created, those two are old by ad agency standards. Maybe that’s why they were inclined to handle the retiree character with good humor.

Marcus told Adweek that his mom calls him at the worst times. That gave the creatives the segue they needed to get back to Geico’s “It’s what you do” theme. The primary demographic target in this commercial are people whose moms call them, not the moms themselves. And if they’d executed the spot poorly, Martin and Geico would’ve alienated older women.

But, there’s no demo so old that ‘funny’ stops working.

All the Beautiful Young People

So, every week or so I get an email from Ad Age that includes appointment notices. Here are all of the Creative Directors in this week's batch. Please don't get me wrong: I'm sure all these people are creative, have great books, and deserve their recent appointments. But come on; if you're a client who wonders why your agency can't seem to create ads that resonate with mature consumers, just look around the table the next time your agency makes a creative presentation. The answer isn't written on their faces, it is their faces; their beautiful young faces.

AllTheBeautifulFaces.png

50 over Fifty: Craigslist founder Craig Newmark

 The tech industry gives the ad business a good run, for the title of 'Most Ageist Industry'. Craigslist founder Craig Newmark was over 40 (a senior citizen by Silicon Valley standards) when he started his site. He was an impressionable teenager in the '60s. Now that he is  in  his 60s, he's definitely reconnecting with the idealism and social activism of that period.

The tech industry gives the ad business a good run, for the title of 'Most Ageist Industry'. Craigslist founder Craig Newmark was over 40 (a senior citizen by Silicon Valley standards) when he started his site. He was an impressionable teenager in the '60s. Now that he is in his 60s, he's definitely reconnecting with the idealism and social activism of that period.

The founder of Craigslist—one of the most-visited websites—was born in 1952. He was one of the Boomers who were the first ‘digital natives’; a self-described nerd who studied computer science at Case Western Reserve University, and then went to work for IBM. He created Craigslist in 1995 (he was over 40 by then, a senior citizen in the tech world!) 

Although he is no longer active in the management of Craigslist, he continues to have a hands-on role handling customer service. He typically focuses on helping Craigslist users who have encountered problems with spammers or scammers. Considering that he could do anything he wanted, either inside or outside Craigslist, the fact that he chose this assignment says a lot about how grounded he is.

 You just have to open a Google search window and start typing “Why are baby boomers so...” to see that Boomers are often thought of as selfish. Newmark is a counter-example. 

You just have to open a Google search window and start typing “Why are baby boomers so...” to see that Boomers are often thought of as selfish. Newmark is a counter-example. 

Although he worked for capitalist bulwarks like IBM, GM, Bank of America, and Charles Schwab, when it came to creating his own business, he designed Craigslist as a mostly free—and commercial-free—service. When Craigslist took off, he kept it as a largely free community service, even though the decision to do so literally cost him billions. (Don’t feel too sorry for him; Forbes estimates his wealth at $400M.)

When he’s not righting wrongs on the web site he created, one person at a time, Newmark is active in philanthropy as a donor, and perhaps more important, a ‘connector’; he links causes he admires with people in a position to help those causes. 

For more information on Newmark’s unique approach to philanthropy check out Craigconnects.

Daily Factoid: Divorce rates for those over 50 have doubled since 1990

A recent story in the New York Times highlights the fact that while divorce rates have been falling for couples under 50 for the last few years, divorces are climbing among older couples. And, the divorce rate has climbed fastest of all among those over 65.

There are a number of big-picture factors influencing divorce rates among Baby Boomers. Once the kids have left home, there's no incentive to stay together for their sake; longer lifespans leave disgruntled 65 year-olds thinking, "I might have to put up with another 30 years of this." 

But here at Re: we think that rising divorce rates among senior citizens prove that the ad industry is wrong about at least one thing: That mature consumers can't change their minds about brand allegiance. If you can change your mind about your husband, you can sure as hell change it about the make of your next car, or which brand of toilet paper to buy.

Divorce, obviously, is a sign of a failed marriage, but a rising divorce rate among Boomers is also a sign that at 50, 60, or even 70 they're willing to take risks and reinvent their lives. It's more evidence that today, mature consumers aren't just more numerous but fundamentally different. They embrace change and love to try new things. Marketers should take note.

Daily Factoid: Is Bernie Sanders too old to be President?

 Although the Democratic Party machine still seems determined to ignore Sanders’ populist appeal, it’s time to consider the possibility that he’ll be the Democratic nominee. That begs the question,  “Is he too old to be President?”  The statistical analysis is interesting, but of course it is based on the law of averages. Here at  re: , our take on it is that if Bernie survives the grueling year-long primary process and becomes the Democratic nominee, that in itself suggests a vitality that belies his chronological age.

Although the Democratic Party machine still seems determined to ignore Sanders’ populist appeal, it’s time to consider the possibility that he’ll be the Democratic nominee. That begs the question, “Is he too old to be President?” The statistical analysis is interesting, but of course it is based on the law of averages. Here at re:, our take on it is that if Bernie survives the grueling year-long primary process and becomes the Democratic nominee, that in itself suggests a vitality that belies his chronological age.

Ronald Reagan—doddering through his second term—is the obvious cautionary tale here. At 75 Bernie’d be the oldest man ever sworn in as President; even older than Reagan was the second time ‘round. 

So... Is he too old? Or is 70 the new fifty, as people say? 

Those are the wrong questions. The right question is, What’s Bernie’s life expectancy? 

The average life expectancy of U.S. males is now nearly 80. So if Bernie even achieved that average, he would (just) live out his term as President. But as any good actuary will tell you, the average American man who has reached the age of 75 can expect to live about 11 more years. Bernie would have a mere 4% chance of dying in his first year in office. At inauguration, the smart money would bet that Bernie even had enough time for a second term.

 No President has ever been sworn into his first term in his 70s. In fact, the average age of first-term Presidents at their inauguration is around 55. But the question shouldn't revolve around age. It should revolve around life expectancy. Sanders' life expectancy at inauguration (at least a decade) would exceed that of many, if not most, past Presidents.

No President has ever been sworn into his first term in his 70s. In fact, the average age of first-term Presidents at their inauguration is around 55. But the question shouldn't revolve around age. It should revolve around life expectancy. Sanders' life expectancy at inauguration (at least a decade) would exceed that of many, if not most, past Presidents.

How does Bernie’s life expectancy compare to earlier Presidents?

Before 1900, an American male’s life expectancy was less than 50 years of age. With that in mind, virtually all early U.S. Presidents were sworn in at an age that exceeded average life expectancy at the time. But, it’s hard to meaningfully compare Presidents’ ages in the 18th & 19th centuries, when life expectancy was skewed downwards by high rates of infant mortality, dangerous and debilitating physical labor, and when now-treatable age-related diseases were a death sentence.

However, I compared age-at-inauguration with life expectancy for all the 20th c Presidents. On average, a new President took office at an age that represented about 90% of the figure for average life expectancy. Teddy Roosevelt took office at the youngest age—42 years and change. But relative to life expectancy, Clinton was the youngest president—he took office at 46, at a time when the average American man lived to be 72.

 Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower were all sworn into office at ages when—after correcting for increased life expectancy—they were about as old as Bernie Sanders is now.

Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower were all sworn into office at ages when—after correcting for increased life expectancy—they were about as old as Bernie Sanders is now.

Taft, Wilson, Harding; FDR (later terms); Truman, Eisenhower and of course Reagan were all Presidents who were, in actuarial terms, at least as old as Bernie is now. 

Admittedly, Harding died of natural causes in office. FDR, too, died of natural causes but it was in his fourth term (his time in office extended by WWII.) Although he was visibly frail in his final term as Commander-in-Chief, FDR is consistently ranked one of the best Presidents ever.  Truman, Eisenhower, and Woodrow Wilson are also rated highly by history; even old Ronald Reagan is fondly remembered.

Author's note: This later post looks at some of the implications of Bernie's age, vis-a-vis his supporters and his electability.

Daily Factoid: 3,000,000 new rental households headed by people over 60 by 2024

After years of a soft overall U.S. housing market, the Mortgage Bankers Association now foresees a decade of strong demand for both single- and multi-family housing.

 "Household formation has been depressed in recent years by a long, jobless recovery and by a lull in the growth of the working age population," said Lynn Fisher, MBA's vice president of research and economics. "(However,) improving employment markets will build on major demographic trends - including maturing of Baby Boomers, Hispanics and Millennials - to create strong growth in both owner and rental housing markets over the next decade."

"Household formation has been depressed in recent years by a long, jobless recovery and by a lull in the growth of the working age population," said Lynn Fisher, MBA's vice president of research and economics. "(However,) improving employment markets will build on major demographic trends - including maturing of Baby Boomers, Hispanics and Millennials - to create strong growth in both owner and rental housing markets over the next decade."

According to MBA estimates, the number of households headed by people 45-60 will decrease over the next decade—because of the relatively small size of the Gen-X cohort. The number of rental households headed by Millennials will increase by 2.7 million units. But the largest increase—3 million units—will come from Baby Boomers.

The MBA doesn't make it clear what percentage of this increase will come from existing tenants simply aging into the 60+ category, compared to the number of Boomers who move into rental accommodation as part of an expected downsizing trend. Either way, the relative importance of older tenants is bound to increase. 

Since an increased demand for rental housing is inevitable, it seems likely we'll see an increase in multi-family housing starts. It will be interesting to see how big multifamily owners like Hunt Companies and Boston Capital, and big developers like Alliance Residential, Mill Creek, and Lennar adapt their offerings—and marketing—to attract older renters.

 

The ad industry Cannes finally see women, but it still cannes't see old people

 "Yeah," the old lion says, "You're young and beautiful and you're on the trophy. I remember what that feels like. But you have no idea what it's like to be me, do ya'?"

"Yeah," the old lion says, "You're young and beautiful and you're on the trophy. I remember what that feels like. But you have no idea what it's like to be me, do ya'?"

The hangovers have finally subsided after the global ad industry’s annual blowout in Cannes. Creatives—especially big winners—are basking in the glow of recognition and their agencies still feel good about those winning campaigns. At least, they will until the expense reports have been filed. And their Lion-winning CDs are poached by rivals.

This year, there was a new Lion award: The Glass Lion. It was awarded for the ad that best shattered gender stereotypes.

There were some high profile American campaigns in the running for the Glass Lion, including Proctor & Gamble/Always brilliant #LikeAGirl ad created by Leo Burnett. It took home an award, but the Grand Prize went to another great P&G campaign created by BBDO India. 

BBDO’s campaign (#TouchThePickle) for Whisper brand sanitary pads was a serious, long-copy assault on deeply ingrained Indian taboos against menstruation. I’m sure it totally deserves an award.

But.

Thanks to the efforts of people like Kat Gordon (creator of the 3% Conference) the ad industry’s now got the message that stereotyping or flat-out ignoring women—whether in marketing efforts or in ad agency creative departments—costs their clients money and is just stupid.

The industry has, finally, realized women are consumers and not just models to drape over the hood of a car in a diaphanous gown or cast as a hot bartender in a star-spangled bikini top.

The proof is that “Like a Girl” ads won three Gold Lions. BBDO’s “Touch The Pickle” also won in general competition. 

So in the best leading-from-behind tradition, the ad industry has created an award to encourage something that’s already happening. Once again culture leads, commerce follows, and the ad industry brings up the rear. (Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying sexism’s dead in the ad business, but it’s showing signs of weakening.)

Ironically, "Touch The Pickle" portrays India's old women as completely locked into those old, outdated notions of menstruation. Only the young women are fighting that taboo. Now, you're obviously not going to sell a lot of sanitary napkins to the women in that video thumbnail above—they're long past menopause (another taboo topic!). But would it have killed P&G India to write in one older character who'd tell a young girl, "Don't be submissive, the way I was! Fight the taboo!"?

I guess I should look forward to the day that the Cannes jury presents the first ‘Wrinkled Lion’ award for the ad that best shatters the stereotyped views of old people in ads. Because that will mean that the ad industry has finally realized that its own entrenched ageism wastes creative talent and costs clients billions (if not trillions) in lost revenue.

 

White Paper: Who’s really going to drive the market for self-driving cars?

The first completely self-driving cars will hit the market by 2020. By 2035, half of all new cars will have autonomous capability.

  Google’s cute driverless cars will soon venture off Google’s campus and onto the roads around Cupertino. Although they’ll be limited to about 25 miles an hour, they’ll be the first completely driverless cars to mix it up with regular traffic. Google has said it will commercialize the car as soon as 2017.

Google’s cute driverless cars will soon venture off Google’s campus and onto the roads around Cupertino. Although they’ll be limited to about 25 miles an hour, they’ll be the first completely driverless cars to mix it up with regular traffic. Google has said it will commercialize the car as soon as 2017.

Carlos Ghosn, Chairman of Renault and Nissan, promises that the first Nissan capable of completely autonomous driving will be on the market by 2020. Sergio Marchionne, the CEO Fiat Chrysler, recently traveled to Silicon Valley for private meetings at both Apple and Google.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers surveyed 200 engineers working on projects related to autonomous vehicles, asking them when they expected most new cars to be autonomous. Answer: 2035.

They say, “Follow the money.” But a more accurate expression in the tech world would be, “Money leads the way.” Money drives R&D, and research drives new products. In the last year or so, both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have issued reports green-lighting investment in autonomous vehicle technology.

A decade ago, such enthusiasm would’ve been risible. It’s possible that one reason the market accepts the idea today is that by now, many of us have experienced cars capable of parking themselves, staying in their own lane, and braking to avoid an imminent collision. And, shades of Anastasia Steele, where the thought of giving up control used to freak us out, we’ve learned to relax and enjoy this kind of active driver assistance.

The reality of the situation is that as a culture, America has already passed ‘peak auto’.

Young people are less inclined to want their own cars. Although public transportation remains pathetic in most U.S. cities, Millennials and younger cohorts are turning to other options, from car-sharing to Uber. An increasing percentage of them aren’t even  bothering to get driver’s licenses. (In the early ‘80s, almost 90% of 19 year-olds had a driver’s license. Now, less than 70% do.) The auto industry realizes that removing knowing-how-to-drive as a barrier to entry may be critical to its future survival.

So far, most of the discussion about autonomous vehicles focus on benefits like freeing drivers to do other things while commuting, and reducing accidents and congestion. 

  I could write an entire post about the schadenfreude driving the media's sudden obsession with "Elder Orphans". But sensationalism aside, Boomers had smaller families, and their own kids have grown up in an era of increased geographic mobility. That does leave many Boomers in suburban settings where they can't rely on family or public transit to help them get around. That's why so many aging drivers cling to their driving privileges. Self-driving cars will hit the market just at the right time for aging Baby Boomers, who are loathe to give up their independence—or, in the case of Elder Orphans, who have no choice but to remain independent.

I could write an entire post about the schadenfreude driving the media's sudden obsession with "Elder Orphans". But sensationalism aside, Boomers had smaller families, and their own kids have grown up in an era of increased geographic mobility. That does leave many Boomers in suburban settings where they can't rely on family or public transit to help them get around. That's why so many aging drivers cling to their driving privileges. Self-driving cars will hit the market just at the right time for aging Baby Boomers, who are loathe to give up their independence—or, in the case of Elder Orphans, who have no choice but to remain independent.

No one is talking about the real reason autonomous cars are destined to succeed: In 2020, when the first self-driving cars reach the market, leading-edge Baby Boomers will be about 75. In 2035, when most new cars will be capable of driving themselves, the oldest Boomers will be hitting 90; even the youngest will be in their 70s. 

And, in sharp contrast to today’s 20-somethings, Boomers love their cars. They grew up at a time when getting a driver’s license and a first car were rights of passage. They associate their cars with freedom and self-reliance. It’s hardly an exaggeration to say that, for most Boomers, their car is an essential part of their self-identity. 

The AAA surveyed more than 500 older drivers a few years ago. 80% basically admitted to their own diminished driving capacity when they reported that they avoid driving in certain conditions. (For example, they said they no longer drove at night, or in bad weather, or during rush hour.) More than half of those surveyed said that losing their ability to drive would pose a “somewhat serious” or “very serious” problem.

Boomers hate to see themselves as “old”. They’re the ones, after all, who keep repeating, “60’s the new forty” and “Seventy’s the new 50”. But failing eyesight and slowed reaction times can only be denied for so long. And that’s why Boomers will embrace self-driving cars.

   Baby Boomers already buy more new cars than any other age group. 

Baby Boomers already buy more new cars than any other age group. 

For younger consumers, self-driving cars will represent convenience, and that's fine. For older consumers, self-driving cars will represent freedom itself, which is a far more powerful motivator. That's why Baby Boomers will be the most enthusiastic early adopters of autonomous vehicles.

Grey's the new blonde

It’s not news to anyone who regularly reads this blog, but Adweek’s finally realized that there are hip old people.

In a recent story, the magazine reported that major fashion brands have been signing celebrity senior citizens—ranging from sexy 60-somethings like Charlotte Rampling and Jessica Lange to 93 year-old Iris Apfel (above).

Adweek raises the spectre that brands like Kate Spade risk alienating younger consumers, though that risk is obviously offset by the massive buying power of Baby Boomers and Seniors.

But the real reason choosing those seniors as spokespeople is that there’s increasingly a sense that it’s actually hip to be... old. As they note, the blog Advanced Style is very popular among millennials. And some millennials are now dying their hair grey.

Yes, grey dye jobs are now a thing. The pop singer Pink has gone grey a few times over the last five years or so, and it’s catching on. One of the Kardashians is doing it. (No, not Bruce.) The phenomenon’s got a hashtag now, #GrannyHair

Ingvild Aslaksen's a Scandinavian teen who definitely does rock the Granny Hair on her Instagram account. The final proof that this isn't just a trend I'm super-sensitive to because of my work here at Revolutionary Old Idea is, when I recently opened a Google search window and started typing, "dye to make hair…" Google filled in 'grey', 'white', and 'gray' before giving me any other options.

The fashion world is still wrestling with the whole “what does this mean?” question when, of course, it’s fashion so it may just be a random choice with no significant meaning. Here at Revolutionary Old Idea, however, we’re interested in things we’re sure it doesn’t mean.

Grey obviously no longer necessarily means ‘old’, ‘tired’, or ‘uncool’. That’s great news, especially for women. (Men have always been cut more slack; it’s always been possible for George Clooney to be both grey and sexy.)

What are the factors driving the new acceptance of grey hair among sexy women? 

  • The increasing awareness of Boomer and Senior buying power, on the part of brands that previously targeted younger women only
  • Mature celebrities hanging onto their own sex-symbol status, who are in turn still admired by Boomers and Seniors who resent the idea that only young people can be attractive
  • The rejection of unattainable and unnatural beauty standards by women of all ages
  • And just maybe the realization by young people that youth is fleeting. By making grey the new blonde, they’re playing the long game for themselves

Ironically Adweek's breathlessly reporting this trend, to readers who, mostly, work at ad agencies where a  grey dye job would be the epitome of cool, but actual grey hair is career-limiting. As I've always said though, Culture leads business, and clients lead agencies. The ad business will be the last to realize that grey's the new blonde.

Potty humor done pretty well, and very well

Last year, I wrote about the first ad in Kimberly-Clark’s Depend brand’s ‘Underwareness’ campaign. I recently saw this new spot, which picks up the original visual, emphasizing young,  attractive people out in their Depends undies... and little else.

Incontinence is big business, and it’s growing. Depend, which has long been a generic term like ‘Kleenex’, now faces competition from P&G’s ‘Always’ brand. So, I suppose we can expect to see more aggressive and creative ads for a category that used to be pitched in more practical, understated terms.

According to Omnicom’s Organic, which has a detailed case study for this campaign on its web site, there are “more people with bladder leakage in their 20s than there are in their 80s.” I’m not sure where they got that number, but I would venture that they’re using the kind of statistics Mark Twain referred to when he said, “There are three kinds of lies. Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” (According to the Mayo Clinic, urinary tract infections, and pregnancy and childbirth can cause incontinence in young women. I.E., temporary conditions account for most of those 20-somethings. Meanwhile menopause and prostate problems lead to incontinence in older folk; for those people it’s chronic. That’s why sales of incontinence products track with the increase in the older population and why the average age of Depend buyers is far older than the average age of the actors cast in this commercial.)

On the face of it, Depend is saying, "There's a lot of people who are (at least occasionally) incontinent. They're not all decrepit old biddies. We make products that you'd never know were incontinence undies, and you'd never guess who buys some of them." 

A side benefit of this ad strategy is, people who aren’t incontinent (yet) may well come to feel that it’s no big deal, just another life phase, and Depend has them covered. They’ll age into the market taking the brand for granted. 

I certainly don’t hate this ad, but I don’t love it, either.

My ambivalence comes from this: Every year, magazines like People put out "Sexiest stars over 50" stories. And they piss me off because a.) half of them have just turned 50, and b.) the women on these lists all look about 40. So while the words celebrate the idea that you could be sexy in middle age, the images they present send a different message.

This ad comes from the same place. It's still, between the lines, telling you that to be attractive, you have to either be or at least look young. There's a shot of a young woman on a scooter. Would it have killed Organic's creatives to find an old scooter rider? Or, couldn't we have some old-but-active people in this spot? Or just one old couple who obviously still find each other attractive? That would be more honest too, because while there are some young Depends users, who appreciate Silhouette Active Fit, the majority of customers are old people who appreciate the slimline design just as much.

So, I’ll give this a ‘meh’.

Now, if a commercial about incontinence makes you squeamish, you definitely won’t be thrilled by an ad for a toilet that’s conspicuously good at flushing away “splatter”. 

Yet, this ad for American Standard's new Vormax toilet is certainly sticking to the rim of my brain. I just wish I knew why they cast old people in the spot.

Is it because American Standard knows the average age of people who spec high-end toilets? I sure as hell hope it’s not because as we get older, splatter becomes more and more of a problem. Because that’s one of the few physical insults my older friends haven’t delighted in describing, when they talk about my future.

But seriously... This ad by 22 Squared is part of a series for American Standard that definitely doesn’t stick to the ad industry’s tried-and-true casting of young-and-beautiful spokesmodels. 

I reached out to American Standard’s marketing chief, Jeannette Long, to ask whether the choice of casting was strictly driven by the actors’ comedic chops, or whether it was influenced in part by the brand’s research into the average age of their customers. But, Ms. Long was on vacation. If she gets back to me, I’ll update this post. What I can tell you right now is, the ad is running on HGTV, where half of all viewers are over 50, so creating a spot that will resonate with older viewers makes good sense.

In the meantime, what makes this such a brainworm? Besides the wacky humor, the surreal location of the toilet, and the even more surreal reappearance of the woman in the final shot; casting this prim and conservative-looking older woman makes the spot funnier than it would have been had it been made with younger actors. 

It’s currently scoring an 82% approval rating on iSpotTV, with almost all positive comments. Ad Age’s Ken Wheaton called it ‘perfect’, and I’m sure that the unexpected casting was a factor in his rating the spot so highly.

That adds up to a grade of Eh+ here on Revolutionary Old Idea. It's a spot with an inspired casting choice that makes consumers of all ages laugh (a little nervously.)

Daily Factoid: Sex, drugs, and Rock n Roll? Well, sex & drugs, anyway

The Wall Street Journal recently confirmed that aging Baby Boomers are still using drugs. I don’t mean the doctor-prescribed kind, I mean the “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” kind, that they first encountered in the 1960s and ‘70s at places like Woodstock. 

The article pointed out that accidental drug overdoses are as common among the 50+ crowd, these days, as they are among Millennials. (It also mentioned that the over-50 age group is the only cohort in which the rate of sexually-transmitted disease is increasing.) 

Of course these days there are quite a few states where doctors can—and increasingly do—prescribe marijuana for ailments that until recently were just accepted as a natural part of aging.

A few months ago, Florida voters narrowly defeated Amendment 2, an initiative that would have put Florida on a path towards legalizing medical pot. A Quinnipiac poll just before the vote showed that 84% of voters over 65 supported the measure. And, 62% of voters 50-64 admitted to smoking pot—more than any other demographic

So while Boomers’ and Seniors’ musical tastes may have moved on (and I’m not saying they have) there’s at least circumstantial evidence that the “sex & drugs” part of that cliché are still going strong.  

While the tone of the Wall Street Journal article was finger-wagging, marketers and advertisers need to learn a different lesson from this Daily Factoid.

Here it is: us old people grew up in an era of experimentation with drugs and sexual freedom. As we aged, we became parents but we didn’t become our parents. While we were raising kids and in the workforce, many of us toned it down. But now we’re at an age when we know what we like and some of us could care less whether ‘the man’ approves. That statistic I cited a few paragraphs above, about pot use in the 50-64 cohort is instructive. I'm not saying that those trailing-edge Boomers necessarily smoke more pot than anyone else, but they're more open about it. Sex, drugs? Yes please.

That holds true for older—often much older—Seniors. My mom is 89. When her neighbors in the seniors’ condo put out a plate of brownies, there’s a good chance they’re laced with pot. And I have another acquaintance who’s pushing 70—a grandmother with an artificial hip—who finds that the young members of the Kansas City ‘polyamory’ Meetup group she attends are easily shocked by her sexual exploits.

If you’re a young ad creative and you want your messages to resonate with Boomers and Seniors, stop talking to us—and especially portraying us—as a bunch of old fuddy-duddies. We’re probably having more fun than you are.

50 over Fifty: Alan Adler

I love coffee. But the other day a friend of mine who really loves coffee invited me to a "cupping" at one of Kansas City's artisan roasters. A cupping is where coffee tasters slurp coffee off spoons, pretty much exactly the way your mom told you never to do it. It seems that mixing the coffee with a lot of air releases the flavor.

Anyway, my point in telling you this story is that all the coffee samples were prepared using the up-to-date coffee geek's méthode du jour: the Aeropress. From Brooklyn to Portland, from Sundance to SXSW, guys are riding up to cafes on their fixed gear bikes and specifying they want a single-shot coffee brewed in an Aeropress, which is a device that's sort of a cross between a portable espresso machine and a bicycle pump. As the name implies, the water is pressed through the coffee grounds by a cushion of compressed air.

 Adler, who's been an inventor all his life, is having a big second act at 76.

Adler, who's been an inventor all his life, is having a big second act at 76.

Since the Aeropress is the darling of Millennials, you may imagine that even I was surprised to learn that the inventor, Alan Adler, is in his 70s. He's been inventing stuff for decades, including a Frisbee-like flying ring that's sold in the millions.

Adler's not even that big a coffee drinker, but he was inspired to develop a cheap and effective fast-brewing system after he read that when the water spends less time in contact with the coffee, it comes out sweeter. Of course, from my perspective here @BrandROI, I'm a little disappointed that he's now sold millions of Aeropress machines (they retail for about $30) almost without advertising. But I can't argue with his strategy, which is to get the machine into the hands of coffee geeks like the ones who put on that cupping I attended. They then become evangelists for his brand.

 Like my last 50 over Fifty subject, Barbara Beskind, Adler works in Palo Alto, where he's still inventing stuff.

To read a great story on Adler and the Aeropress, go here.

Geico and The Martin Agency get an 'Eh!' grade for this tiny all-ages masterpiece

Every once in a while, I see a commercial that resonates perfectly with the older audience, in spite of the fact is has no older actors, and makes no mention of concerns particular to mature consumers. That’s the case with this YouTube pre-roll ad, conceived by The Martin Agency and produced by Park Pictures.

The spot perfectly channels 1950's suburbia in a way that’s simultaneously ironic (a nod to ad-fatigued Millennials, 95% of whom click “Skip Ad” the moment it appears) and which brings back fond memories of TV nuclear families from the days when Americans had a choice of a handful of networks, not a handful of devices on which to watch video content.

Young baby boomers might remember the ‘false freeze frame’ trope from the short-lived ‘Police Squad!’ TV show, which used the device in the closing credits. But whether you’re seeing the gag again or for the first time, the humor comes from watching the actors closely as they strive to remain frozen in place while they fight the urge to break into laughter. 

If Geico or Martin had come to me to say, “Help us ensure that our spot will also work on older consumers,” I’d’ve said, “Don’t change a thing.” This is a perfect example of an all-ages gag, so the spot gets a grade of ‘Eh!’ (Hey, I am Canadian.)